Wed 20 Nov 2013

Filipa Pato – Portugal’s Modern Traditionalist

By

Filipa Pato is the daughter of the Bairrada region’s most famous son, Luís Pato. Luís is described as a nonconformist and a pioneer, and has been crafting some of Barirrada’s, if not Portugal’s, finest red and white wines since the early 1980s, garnering worldwide acclaim and multiple awards along the way.

It appears that the winemaking apple does not fall far from the tree.

Filipa Pato

Filipa Pato

Standing in Filipa’s newly acquired vineyard in Bairrada, some of the problems and opportunities faced by those producers dedicated to Portugal’s indigenous grape varieties and winemaking heritage become apparent. The vineyard used to belong to a grower who, since the closure of the local co-operative five years earlier, has struggled to find buyers for his grapes. This is a story repeated throughout the region.

Filipa Pato VineyardsThe unspoilt way of life and the beauty of these rural Portuguese vineyards is certainly attractive to visitors more accustomed to the hectic pace of modern living. But for the younger generation growing up in the same sleepy surroundings there are few prospects and little to entice them to stay in the region. Consequently the majority have left for the larger towns and cities where there are far greater opportunities for education and employment.

Speaking to Filipa, it becomes clear that there is conflict between her desire to uphold the traditional way of life in the region coupled with a real feeling of responsibility to help the population of smaller growers balanced against commercial considerations, sustainability and quality.

In many ways she is a conservationist, but one firmly rooted in the reality of today’s ever-changing wine marketplace.

The problem, however, has created an opportunity: now many growers who originally refused to sell their grapes are queuing up to do so, which has allowed the indigenous grapes of the region to take shape in the hands of a forward-thinking winemaker.

Much of the fruit Filipa buys comes from old vines that have been traditionally farmed but in many cases were at risk of being replaced with more profitable crops. Indeed, she was so shocked at what she called the `devastation’ of Bairrada’s native baga variety that she formed along with her father, the group ‘Baga Friends’, whose aim is to keep and maintain the heritage of the old vineyards of this grape.

Despite (and maybe because of) having a famous winemaking father, Filipa is very much her own person. Her winery is modest, located in pretty little farmhouse. Wines are tasted at the kitchen table with most of the house taken up by vats, stainless-steel tanks and barrels.

Filipa Pato's cellar

Filipa Pato’s cellar

The basement cellar is dark and cool and, it wouldn’t be unfair to say, a little run down. The wines, however, are not – and are recognised as such by noted UK wine critics Jamie Goode, Sarah Ahmed and Jancis Robinson MW amongst others.

Filipa describes her winemaking style as producing ‘authentic wines without makeup’. No flashy use of new oak or overblown marketing hyperbole here. The wines are very much allowed to speak for themselves. If oak is needed then it is used, but always as a supporting role to the flavours and idiosyncrasies of the region’s indigenous grapes.

The end result is a range of finely crafted wines that speak of the terroir of Bairrada and that respect the traditions of the region while showing off the huge potential that is gradually starting to be recognised outside of Portugal. These attributes, combined with honesty and elegance, could easily be applied to describe Filipa herself.

Gareth Park
Campaign Manager

You can read an interview with Filipa’s father, Luís Pato, on the Wine World & News section of our website.

Don’t miss Filipa’s and Luís’ wines, alongside many more, in The Society’s current featured range of Portuguese wines.

Categories : Other Europe, Portugal

Leave a comment